Sep 3, 2010

Writing Animal Characters

One of my latest reads has been Dog On It, a mystery series by Spencer Quinn, featuring the detective duo, Chet and Bernie. The narrative is told in first person by the point of view of Chet. Chet is Bernie's dog.
Telling the story from the pet's point of view has been done before, but has the potential to be too cheesy. Chet wouldn't mind, he likes cheese. But, this book does not become corny, thankfully Quinn resists any urge to have animals carry on conversations with each other.

I write dogs. In Dog Show Detective my mystery-solving duo are 12yr old Kitty Walker and her Miniature Schnauzer, Spade. I love dogs, watch dogs and feel I know dogs pretty darn well. I try to capture the character of my dog's size, breed and individual personality. Too often, I read stories where the dog is just 'there', loitering on the pages and yapping occasionally (or worse, saying 'woof'!). Quinn has captured the essence of the dog perfectly utilising Chet's strengths (good sense of smell, strongly loyal, and, can take a bite when necessary) and his weaknesses (memory gets a bit foggy and events get blurred, plus, he has no will power when it comes to food - or urinating on interesting objects).

Quinn captures the dialogue of a dog perfectly: "I hopped out and trotted around, lifting my leg on some of those spiky bushes and a round rock with a flat rock sitting on top of it - couldn't ignore something like that."

The mystery is interesting enough to carry the story (this one is about a missing girl) and I loved it enough that I'm currently reading Thereby Hangs a Tail (the next mystery in the series).

Tonight I fly to Brisbane, I'm a nervous flyer, so I've packed lots to do on my short 1hr40min flight. I've got my Kindle (my Chet and Bernie mystery waiting on it), a book on Mystery Writing, audiobooks on my iPod and various snacks. It will be worth it. Tomorrow I'll be attending the CYA Conference at the Brisbane Writers Festival - I'll try to take lots of pics and notes to share with you all!
stay calm, stay calm, stay calm...


  1. I'm looking forward to hearing all about the conference in Brisbane! :)
    Have a safe and fun trip!

  2. You're going to have a great time at the conference!! Enjoy the fun and breathe easy on the plane. :)

  3. Thanks girls! The conference was awesome! I've so many notes to transfer into blogs. :-)